Susan is new to Canada and lives with her mother in Ontario. She's not used to the cultural freedoms in this new country, she's used to live in Saudi Arabia. Susan is reserved, wary of boys and determined not to get her driving license. Susan is very bright and her parents have high expectations of her. They want her to be a doctor although in secret she wants to be an artist.
Her father is still in Saudi Arabia, making excuses as to why he can't join them in Canada. As her fear about her parents' relationship grows, Susan decides to bury herself in her studies.
Then she meets Malcolm, a brooding, somewhat troubled teen. Malcolm's mother died of cancer, previous to this he found out his father was having an affair. This drove Malcolm to drink and use drugs on a regular basis. The abuse he experienced at the hands of his father didn't help. Now, though, he's trying to get on the straight and narrow. Fresh off of a hard breakup, Malcolm isn't sure what he wants anymore.
When he meets Susan, Malcolm knows he's found someone truly unique. Their friendship grows and soon becomes something bigger. Malcolm breaks through Susan's protective barriers and gets her to act out in ways she's never experienced before, skipping school for one.
As they begin to feel deeper feelings, people from Malcolm's past begin to haunt him and disrupt their relationship.
Told from Susan and Malcolm's perspective, The Beauty of the Moment is a very nuanced look at teen life. The characters posses a moral duality that is present in everyone but hyper realised in teens in my opinion. Susan's overbearing parents aren't one dimensional, they waver, they try to see things from Susan's perspective and they sometimes admit when they are wrong, just like a lot of parents.
Malcolm's relationship with his sister is heart warming and one that I really enjoyed reading about. His father is a silently brooding character that is the focus of Malcolm's rage. This dynamic really packs a punch and makes for intense reading.
The Beauty of the Moment is a brilliant sophomore novel from Tanaz Bhathena. Fans of John Green, Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and Jennifer Niven will love this story.
Kay Donovan & her friends are the most popular students at an elite private school. They run the place, they control the social atmosphere that is more important to most than grades.
One evening, after a party, they find a dead girl floating in a lake by the school. None of them claim to know her, she was a student at their school but she wasn't high up enough on the pecking order to be important to them.
However when Kay receives a coded scavenger hunt from the dead girl, her life becomes very complicated. She's plunged headfirst into a dangerous game where she must stab her friends in the back otherwise be framed for the murder. As the noose tightens, and the police begin to close in, Kay begins to unravel, and what is real and what is not becomes blurred.
I really enjoyed People Like Us, Kay is a great character, she has several flaws and can be very unlikeable but I never stopped rooting for her. She has a melancholic yet determined nature that keeps her chugging along in the face of obstacle after obstacle. At the Library that I manage, students can't get enough of school-based mysteries so I know this novel will be extremely popular.
I recommend it for ages 14 and up!
Two high school students take the same bus everyday but they've never actually met. Then one day, one of the teens, Richard, takes it upon himself to act recklessly and lights the other students' skirt on fire. Sasha suffers 3rd degree burns and has their life forever altered.
Richard is charged with hate crimes & faces a life behind bars. Both teens are forced to be in the spotlight as the press descends on them and their families.
The strangest part? It's all true. The 57 Bus is a fascinating look at two people who are brought together because of a horrible event. I could not put this book down, I needed to know what was going to happen to Richard & reading about Sasha's recovery was painful and heart breaking. It's an important book about tolerance, violence and recovery. I have organised it so that all of our Year 9 students (over 250 of them) will be reading The 57 Bus in the new year as I know it will generate a lot of discussion. Do not miss out on this amazing story. Recommended for ages 13 and up!
Felix Knuttson lives with his mum Astrid in a VW Westfalia van in Vancouver. They are part of the hidden homeless, people who become homeless but stay with other people, live in automobiles or other places they can find. In short, they aren't living on the sidewalk...yet.
Felix is desperate to keep this secret hidden from his friends at school. Astrid has issues with authority and can't keep a job held down for more than a few weeks. She resorts to shoplifting, something she tries to brush off as a necessity but it's not for Felix. For him things are as bad as they seem. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the new game show that's in town for kids. It's a trivia show and the winner will receive $25,000. That money would get Felix and his mum off the street and into a place of their own. But as the tension mounts, and the teachers and friends start to suspect something's up with Felix's living arrangements, the likelihood of Astrid not being reported to social services gets smaller and smaller.
No Fixed Address is in my opinion Susin Nielsen's best work yet. It's hilarious, sad and has a cast of amazing characters. Felix is an adorable 12 year old with a knack for trivia. He's tough yet sensitive at the same time. His mother is someone who will cause debate for a long time after you've read it. Astrid lives by her own moral code, she wants Felix to call her by her first name, she encourages him to shoplift and she doesn't expect him to follow all of societies' unspoken rules. At the same time you know from the start that she loves Felix more than anything and would jump in front of a bullet for him without hesitation. Together they make a really interesting duo. Felix's friend Winnie starts off as a know-it-all nuisance but soon grows on Felix and I found myself liking her more and more as she begins to bond with Felix and defend him throughout the latter half of the novel.
It's a book that will spark a lot of discussion about parenting, survival and how we treat those on the fringes of what we consider "normal" society.
I loved every page of it and I know our students are going to really eat this one up, can't wait to promote it to them. I recommend it for ages 11 and up!
Kasia is a house-bound teen. Suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), she can't go down the stairs without feeling completely wiped out let alone go to school, meet friends and lead an average teenage life.
She spends her days in her room, listening to podcasts and audio books, doing homework and watching the world from her window.
Across the street and number 48, she swears she sees a figure in the window of a young girl. This seems strange to Kasia because she never sees her leave the house. Then one evening a car pulls up on her street, a man exits the vehicle and drags a screaming girl into it before stepping on the pedal and driving off.
Kasia is shocked and phones the police. Across the street, she sees the shadow of the girl in the window, watching everything unfold.
The police have nothing to go on. No one else has reported a missing person and there's no other witnesses. Kasia knows there is another witness but the police tell her that a young girl doesn't live across the street.
Is Kasia losing her mind? Has she been cooped up in her room for too long?
Kasia makes a new friend when a boy named Nav and his mum move in on the street to make amends with Nav's grandmother. Nav is sympathetic to Kasia and her medical condition, when many teens her age are not. Together, Nav and Kasia try to piece together the mystery of the shadowy girl in the window next door and the abduction that Kasia swore she saw. I won't spoil the novel any further, you'll have to read it!
Peny Joelson's writing is fast paced and concise which is what I love in a YA novel. It's also informative without delving into the info-dump that many authors fall victim to. I learned a lot about ME reading this book and I never once felt like i was being dictated to. I've only met one person in my life with ME and only briefly so I was interested in learning more. The frustration that Kasia feels when people in her school don't really believe her that she suffers from a real medical condition and is just trying to get out of school is tough and I can't imagine how that feels.
Girl in the Window covers some tough issues but I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a twelve year old student at Glenthorne. I really loved it, fans of mystery thrillers and even books like Everything, Everything will be wanting to read more from Penny!
Mo needs to escape. Her mum's new boyfriend, Lloyd, is an abusive brute who has a dark past, the boy she likes, Sam, has his heart set on a new girl and life in Crongton in general can be outright dangerous.
When Lloyd goes too far and reveals a horrible secret her mum has been harbouring, Mo vows revenge.
As she gets more and more involved in the criminal element of Crongton's toughest residents, she begins to wonder how she got so deep, and if she can ever get out.
Straight Outta Crongton is a unique novel in that Wheatle has created his own rhythm and in some cases words that his characters use to describe their situations. It reminded me a lot of A Clockwork Orange in that respect. I never once felt like the language was shoe-horned in, it flows as natural as the concrete pillars in the tower blocks that line Crongton.
I really loved Mo, she's a complex character that does some deeply wrong things yet I never once stopped rooting for her throughout the entire novel. She never once stops fighting for her right to be happy and to be respected by everyone around her. She demands that her mother provide a safe place for both of them and when that doesn't happen she storms out. Mo is a fighter and I really enjoyed following her through this journey.
I would highly recommend this and the other books in Wheatles' South Crongton series, check them out!
Taran's dream is to become an MC, her and her twin brother Hari live in Firestone House, a tower block in London with a bad reputation that doesn't paint the full picture of community and togetherness that the twins know and love.
When Hari and his friend Jamal witness a horrible crime, they find themselves on the run from corrupt policemen.
Using Firestone House as their refuge, they begin to uncover the truth behind the crime they have witnessed. Now the clock is ticking to get their evidence into the right hands before they and their friends befall a horrible fate at the hands of the dirty cops.
Run, Riot is about a lot of things but it focuses a lot on gentrification. "Cleaning" up areas of a city that are viewed as unprofitable in the eyes of faceless corporations. Their goal is to bring in middle to upper class people and rid the area of those who need affordable housing. They don't care where they go as long as they aren't in the way. Firestone House is up for redevelopment and it plays a crucial role in the novel.
It's also a straight up thriller which reminded me of a movie I used to love as a teen, one called Judgement Night which takes place all in one night and sees people on the run from violent criminals.
The novel portrays the everyday distrust that many people have of authority and especially the police. The rage and anger that boils up in people who feel like they've got no one to really turn to, even in times of dire emergencies, is a constant thread throughout. It's a hard hitting theme that strikes a nerve with anyone who is living through this kind of dystopian nightmare and people who think it can't possibly be that bad but should be awoken to it.
It is in this vein that Run, Riot breathes life into its characters. They are typical teens and not so typical at the same time. They are afraid, angry, resilient and possess a strong sense of community and justice. It's a great YA novel with a lot of thrills and anger and retribution. I highly recommend it for ages 14 and up!
The Californian summer is about to descend upon Reiko and her circle of popular friends. Reiko, however, is holding onto a secret. She still speaks to her sister Mika, who died five years ago in a tragic accident. Reiko not only speaks to her, she sees her, feels her and relies on her for advice.
When she meets Seth, a troubled yet alluring boy in her school, she feels like she's met a kindred spirit. As the summer drifts on, Reiko and Seth's relationship starts to disintegrate and both teens must decide on what they want out of life. As university application deadlines approach, friendships are strained and Reiko's grip on what is real and what isn't wanes, she wonders if she's coming to a breaking point.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a dreamy, smart novel about loss, love, friendship and consent. The characters all have flaws, some of them major ones but that doesn't stop you from rooting for them throughout. Webber knows how to write about the teen relationships and she knows how to tug at your heartstrings.
We have teens that frequent the Library on a daily basis that are going to devour this novel, I can't wait to get it into their hands. Highly recommend it for ages 14 and up!
Xiomara Batista has to be tough. She'd rather use her fists than her words when it comes to defending herself and her twin brother, Xavier.
Under the strict rule of her fiercely Catholic mother, Xiomara writes furiously in her prized leather notebook, panting the pages with the words of her heart and soul.
When she begins to develop feelings for Aman, the danger of being with a boy she knows her mother would disapprove of is stressful yet tempting for a girl desperate to connect with someone and have her voice heard. Then Xioamara is asked to join a slam poetry event and a whirlwind of events occur, propelling her into a new phase of her life.
This is a phenomenal novel, Xiomara is a brilliant and strong lead character that defends her family and rebels against them like any teen would. Set in Harlem, the novel has a beautiful rhythm that would sit perfectly next to Sarah Crossan, Kwame Alexander and Jason Reynolds. I'm going to really enjoy getting the students in our high school turned on to this amazing novel, don't miss it!
I recommend it for ages 15 and up!
Peter Blankman suffers panic attacks. That's one thing you should know about him. He's also a maths genius. His mother is a scientist and a very important one. Peter's twin sister Bel, has always stuck up for him and looked after him.
Peter is seventeen and heavily bullied at school. His best friend at school is named Ingrid. She too suffers panic attacks and has OCD where she scrubs her knuckles raw under hot water when she's stressed.
Peter's mother, the very important scientist, is about to receive a huge award for her contributions in science. This is where things go haywire.
At the award ceremony, there's a commotion, panic and Peter's life is immediately thrust into a jet-fuelled nightmare of paranoia, espionage and some serious "Forced Vengeance" level butt kicking.